We are still making history to this day!
Starting in the 1880's, Saranac Lake began to be known as an outdoorsy community centered around health, recreation, and industry. When the tuberculosis outbreak was at its height, Saranac Lake was an internationally recognized place to 'take the cure.' That history profoundly affected the village and its surrounding area, from its architecture to the astonishing variety of people who were drawn here in hope of a cure, many of whom stayed on.
Jacob Smith Moody, a farmer, trapper, and guide, becomes the first permanent settler in what will be Saranac Lake, on a plot of land which includes parts of Moody Pond and some of the land adjacent to the Saranac River.
Captain Pliny Miller, a militia commander in the War of 1812, arrives in Saranac Lake in 1822 and purchases 300 acres of land along the Saranac River. He then builds a sawmill and erects the first dam in across the river, creating a small pond (then named Mill Pond) which is used for gathering logs for processing. This pond would later become Lake Flower.
Under the guidance of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, The Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium is founded. Dr. Trudeau, who spent time in the Adirondacks recuperating from his own case of tuberculosis, realizes the potential that the region held for other patients looking to do the same. He fundraises to begin his project, and is able to build the very first cure cottage, dubbed Little Red, through a single donation. This small building marks the start of the curing industry in the area. The institution is later renamed Trudeau Sanatorium in honor of Dr. Trudeau after his passing.
In the winter, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson is advised to spend time in a more congenial climate by his doctor for his chronic lung ailment, and journeys to Saranac Lake having heard of the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium. Here, Stevenson writes many short works and completes a major portion of “The Master of Ballantrae.” He and Trudeau become close friends, despite Stevenson being a poor patient (he was a noted chain smoker). Stevenson leaves Saranac lake in April of 1888 to head to the South Pacific, where he later dies of his illness.
The first town hall is commissioned, designed by Zachary Taylor, and costs around $10,000 for both the land and it’s construction. The building, and the clock upon its tower, become a symbol of the village to those who live there.
The first Saranac Lake High School is built on Main Street, and is dedicated to Benjamin Harrison, then President of the United States of America. It will be the first of three buildings to house the village’s high school.
The Saranac Laboratory is completed, becoming the first in the nation dedicated to tuberculosis research. Dr. Trudeau’s previous makeshift laboratory was lost when it caught fire, taking his family home along with it. The laboratory is designed to be the most modern and cutting edge facility possible at the time and situated in a location close in proximity to his new home. The Church Street lab would remain open until 1964, and now houses the Saranac Laboratory Museum maintained by Historic Saranac Lake.
To cope with the long Adirondack winters, the residents of Saranac Lake begin the tradition of holding an annual Winter Carnival in the town, consisting of a parade, several contests, and fireworks. Over time, the oldest American winter carnival will grow to include the iconic Ice Palace and Carnival Court. Over 100 years later, the festivities will continue every February and draw thousands to the town each year.
The Union Depot is built by the Delaware and Hudson Depot, consolidating with both the Chateaugay Railroad and the New York Central Railroad, granting easy and direct access to Saranac Lake for the first time.
Trudeau passes away from tuberculosis in November, having struggled with the disease ever since his initial diagnosis. His death is a major blow to the community. To honor his memory, The Cottage Sanitarium is renamed Trudeau Sanatorium. He is buried in the cemetery at St. John’s in the Wilderness Church in Paul Smiths.
The Harrietstown Town Hall burns down, destroying the offices and archives of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. The new Town Hall will be erected two years later in 1928.
Both the Hotel Saranac and the National Vaudeville Artists’ Lodge open. The Hotel Saranac, designed by the prominent local architects Scopes and Feustmann, is made to be the most modern of the six hotels operating in the town, and is the only one left standing today. The NVA Lodge will eventually be renamed as Will Rogers Memorial Hospital in 1936, and will become an independent care facility years later.
Albert Einstein spends the summer on Lower Saranac for the first time, renting a house at the Glenwood Estates. A noted expert sailor, Einstein frequents the lake, to the chagrin of those in the town, as it’s said he does not know how to swim (he will later be rescued from drowning by a local boy after his boat capsizes). He and his family would continue to spend summers in Saranac Lake through the 1940s, and Einstein happens to be in the Adirondacks when the Atomic Bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.
The Saranac Lake Airport is built near Lake Clear with intentions to be used for efforts during WW2, however that never comes to fruition. Once it is turned commercial in 1949, the airport provides an influx of people and capital to the area, and still continues to do so to this day.
Although the Sanatorium closed a decade prior, the Saranac Laboratory had remained functional, and relocated to a bigger and newer facility, rebranding as the Trudeau Foundation Research Laboratories, and later becoming known as the Trudeau Institute. Built on the grounds of what once was the Hotel Algonquin overlooking Lower Saranac, the facility was dedicated to immunology research.
During this year, two major figureheads of the community are formed: Pendragon Theatre and Historic Saranac Lake. Pendragon, founded to promote excellence in the arts in the community, put on its first production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” for $500, and has grown from there. In turn, Historic Saranac Lake was founded as a non-for profit promoting the preservation of historic buildings and sites in the town. Historic Saranac Lake later restored the vacant Saranac Laboratory and opened it to the public as a museum in 2009.
Saranac Lake wins the honor of becoming an All-American City, joining the likes of Rochester and Albany in-state, and San Diego, Phoenix, and hundreds of others across the country.
The Hotel Saranac reopens after five years of renovations by the Rodel Company, and is brought back to its former glory. The Hotel brings back life and revenue to the village, providing rooms for tourists and space for community events.
Saranac Lake is awarded 10 million dollars from New York State as part of its Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Having been deemed the most economically viable in the North Country, the town is given this grant that will allow us to restore and grow our community in a wonderful way.
Historic Saranac Lake Walking Tour
The Village has four historic districts. Take a walking tour with Historic Saranac Lake and get the inside story on everything from the historic cure cottages to laboratories. Check the schedule here.